MLA John Slater accompanied Minister of State for Seniors MLA Ralph Sultan on a tour of senior facilities in the Boundary – Similkameen on November 28.
Keremeos Mayor Manfred Bauer joined the entourage in Keremeos, where Sultan and Slater paid a visit to the senior’s centre.
Sultan was appointed as Minister of State for seniors in September by Premier Christy Clark, with the expectation that he would bring the seniors’ voice directly to the table.
“I feel I have a personal understanding of senior’s isssues,” said Sultan, who is turning 80 next June.
I’ve been attending briefings with the Ministry of Health, talking to various senior organizations like COSCO (Council for Senior Citizens of BC), the Alzheimer’s Society and Ombudsperson Kim Carter, and studying her report containing 176 recommendations for seniors –
over the last two months. So far I’ve covered 40 or 50 senior’s centres,” Sultan explained. “I’m here to listen and getting educated as well.”
Overall, Sultan said that it appears that seniors in B.C. are finding that life is good, but there are problems – looking ahead, Sultan noted that B.C. faced an increasing influx of seniors retiring to the province, in addition to those already here – an increasingly larger proportion of the population.
“It’s no longer unusual to meet people 100 years old or more,” he said.
The big challenge facing the province, Sultan added, is keeping the 96 per cent of B.C. seniors currently living in their own homes, in their homes as their need personal services increase.
“The thrust of government will be to help provide those services – shovelling snow, shopping, light housekeeping duties, for instance – non-medical services – so that we can reduce much higher medical expenses.
The province is currently looking at a three point plan to improve senior care in B.C.
“What is it that people need to keep living as they are? That ‘s an important question we are asking.
Number two – who will provide these services? The United Way is currently working with us to look at ways where seniors can help seniors,” Sultan explained.
“The third point is to plan with seniors, not for them – to figure out at the community level what will work,”’ he said.
The province currently spends one half of the health budget on seniors – with the health budget being half of the total provincial budget.
“That’s one out of every four dollars collected in the province going to senior care,” Sultan noted, adding that health care spending was an expensive, delicate area of government in which to tread.
“Seniors are outspoken, they know the issues” Sultan concluded, “and they vote.
Politicians better pay attention.”